Phoenix has a DJ

With the penultimate pick in the 2007 NBA draft, the Phoenix Suns selected DJ Strawberry.  I think it is a perfect situation for DJ.  He won’t have to score (which is good, because he won’t be able to), and he will be called on to stop the likes of Kobe Bryant and Lebron James.  Given his athleticism, I think DJ could become an effective defensive stopper in the league.  Regardless, the kid earned it.  Straw garnered much criticism for his poor decision making, but no one ever questioned his effort.  I like to see kids who try hard get rewarded.  Now, if DJ could just learn the difference between a good shot and a bad shot.  There is no one better than Mike D’Antoni to teach him.

I also wanted to mention that MVN has added a chat feature to the blog.  I think it is going to be great during the football and basketball seasons.  Loyal readers will recall that during games, many readers would make comments during the game.  This feature will allow those comments to be actual conversations.  It should be pretty cool.   I’m testing it out now.

Hail Gary! Hail the Seniors

What a game! Can you believe they pulled that one out? The most crucial sequence of the game came when Mike Jones turned the ball over, and the Tarheels were heading for an uncontested layup. The layup was missed, and Jones promptly drained a three cutting the lead to seven. That was a five point swing and it was all Terps the rest of the way.

A collective mea culpa is in order. Gary Williams, I doubted you. We all doubted you. Losing has a way of doing that to a fan base. Gary’s Terps completed an improbable ressurrection and Gary above all and should be recognized. He is the best coach in the history of the University and will be in Springfield one day. In no small part due to what he has acheived this year.

These kids have been left for dead twice. For the seniors, it was missing the tournament for two straight years. And then most recently, this January. The Terps were 2-5 in conference play. Now they are 8-6!! Who can believe that?

The first four games of this run were sparked by the play of the underclassmen. James Gist, Grevis Vasquez, and Eric Hayes were turning heads. The Sun, The Post, even Jay Bilas were writing about them.

Tonight it was the seniors. DJ played the game of his career. 27 points on 12-18 shooting. Jones played the way he should have been playing for the last 4 years (He got a ton of open looks coming off screens). Ibekwe committed his required three stupid fouls, but played great defense against Hansborough down the stretch and rebounded the ball well.

Vasquez and Hayes played poorly, but the seniors picked them up. It was a team effort. This team never gives up. Gary has taken two freshman and a JC transfer and molded them with a star-crossed upper class. Few coaches can acheive that kind of balance and commitment to unselfish play.

I think Gary Williams warrants consideration for ACC Coach of the Year. If the Terps pull this off and win out, he gets the nod.

Something special is happening in College Park. Many Terp fans will be reminded of the teams’ Final Four run in 2001. Left for dead after the Duke (gone in 53 seconds) and Florida State losses; the Terps miraculously rebounded and made it to the grand stage.

Can this team replicate that? That may not be in the cards for this team, but who cares? These players have given their fans a gift. The gift of an unexpected run to glory. For that, I am grateful.

Duke is on Wednesday. Who can wait?

One Win. Four To Go.

OK. We all know that beating Duke is more than just one win.  It feels so good.  Doesn’t it? Seeing that disapproving skowl on Coach K’s face brings me soo much joy.  I find it difficult to express it in words.  I believe the phrase in German is schadenfruede.  Helping to ruin Duke’s season is a great way to boost team morale.

However as the headline suggests,  there is much work to be done.  Can the Terps string together a series of wins?  Two winnable road games loom. Can we display some consistency?

Tonight was beautiful.  Vasquez and Hayes were fun to watch.  These guys are going to be good together for a long time.   Vasquez thrives in pressure situations.  After watching this game, it is clear to me that these Terps are at their best when the seniors are defering to the freshman.

Of course, we have been saying this all season long, but it seems that tonight the seniors realized it too.  Sure DJ played well (finally), but MJ was terrible and Ibekwe had a quiet 13 points.  As is typical with these seniors, we count on one of them to not show up each night.

I can live with that if the fresman can step up like they did tonight.  Hayes’ numbers are not gaudy but the offense just runs better with him at the helm.  And Vasquez, what can you say?  He’s is our leader.  He takes the big shots when we really need a bucket.  He stops runs. He fires up the crowd.  I love this Venezuelan kid.

As for Duke, this is going to be fun.  They are rudderless.  No consistent guard play and a center who has is supposed to be a lottery pick but has no offensive skills and can’t play defense.  They are a bubble team.  Make no mistake.  They have no quality wins.  Even we have some of those.

I will leave you with this: if we can sweep Duke it is likely that we could knock them out of the Tournament while simultaneously vaulting ourselves into the field.  Reason enough to keep watching, eh?

Let’s enjoy this one because the season is on the line this Wednesday with another must-win game at NC State.

Pressed to Lose

Welcome to the grind. The grind is a place where our team leader (Strawberry) does not understand the fundamentals of team basketball. The grind is a place where the head coach insists on pressing regardless of whether or not it is working and regardless of the number of layups it causes on the other end. The grind is a place where our guards are too young to be counted on away from home.

Clearly, we played bad, but I am sick and tired of the officials in the ACC being completely overmatched. What was the foul shooting disparity tonight? 3 to 1? Teams cannot win on the road when they play the entire second half in foul trouble. It is not unrealistic to expect a fairly called game.

Don’t misunderstand me, I am not blaming this loss on the officials. The Terps lost because of the game plan, not the poor officiating. We start a freshman point guard (Vasquez) and a shooting guard (Jones) who is not known for his defense. The Cavaliers start two experienced guards (Singletary and Reynolds) and may have one of the best backcourts in the ACC and perhaps, the nation. Their guards are faster than our guards. Yet, Gary insisted on pressing for the majority of the game!

Why? Is it stubborness? I’m not sure, but this was not a good game plan. The Terps had a clear size advantage and pounded the ball inside with success. However, we negated our strong half court play by giving up layups and wide open threes on the other end. Those easy shots were sparked by Singletary consistently beating our press after made Terp buckets. How did Gary not see this? We played right into UVA’s strengths, and allowed them to take advantage of our weaknesses.

The Terps will be a big underdog on Sunday night, which means we should all expect them to be 1-4 in conference play. The schedule becomes easier after that, but we need to start playing consistently and it starts right at the top.

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